Pathway to Healing:  Sharing History & Humanity at the Kansas City International Airport

Since 2019, the Kansas City Museum has worked with educator Oralee Watkins McKinzy, historian Lucille H. Douglass, Dr. Gene T. Chávez, E.d.D., jazz vocalist Angela Hagenbach, and filmmakers Rodney Thompson and Stinson McClendon to produce four short videos for the history exhibit at the Kansas City International Airport. 

The history exhibit at the airport was produced by Dimensional Innovations, and the videos were produced by the Kansas City Museum for inclusion in the exhibit’s digital content.  Each video is approximately 2-4 minutes and covers the following themes:  First Peoples of Platte County, Formerly Enslaved People in Platte County, Enslavement Ends in Platte County, and the Pathway to Healing. 

The vision to tell the history of the 11 acres of the airport land, including the history of the First Peoples and formerly Enslaved People of Platte County, was conceived more than 15 years ago by Warren R. Watkins, Jr. (d. 2019), Bruce R. Watkins Jr. (d. in 2019), archeologist Dr. Jimmy Johnson (d. 2013), and Platte County historian Shirley Kimsey.  In 2008, the Watkins family discovered that they were descendants of enslaved people likely buried in family cemeteries on and near the airport property.  Thereafter, Warren and Bruce started to work closely with the City as well as Dr. Mark Rabb (d. 2019)and Dr. Ike Francis to advance their overarching goal of having a future digital experience at the airport that would tell the complete history of the airport land and engage and inspire youth to learn more about their histories. 

After Warren’s death, his daughter Oralee Watkins McKinzy, his son Warren Riley Watkins III, and his cousin Bruce R. Watkins, Jr. decided to advance the vision.  Most important to them was creating what Warren always called “a movement to healing,” that brings about reconciliation and understanding among descendants of formerly enslaved people and descendant of the enslavers.  

Travelers to and from the Kansas City International Airport may experience the overall history exhibit and the videos on the way to Concourse B.